Pollard was Passin’ with Passion
by Cate Murway
“Be modest. A lot was accomplished before you were born.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Our perceived view of history can be unbelievably narrow. When an opportunity to record an accomplishment like this one is presented, it is a salient reminder to sincerely consider those who have tread before, and continue building upon foot falls they have left behind.
The Bristol High School Athletic Hall of Fame Committee recently announced a new crop of former student-athletes selected for induction into the BHS Athletic Hall of Fame. The Class of 2015 inductees included Margaret Adams Walsh, Larry Cohen, Michael Kervick, Jerome Mead, Dominick Petrino, John Pindar, Maryann Taylor Morris, the 1953 State Champion 880 relay team and Joyce Frake (Hall of Fame Honor Roll).
The Hall of Fame induction took place on Thanksgiving Day during half time of the football game at Bristol High School with a breakfast to honor the inductees in the Bristol High School Cafeteria.
A check of the records has shown remarkable feats of these tracksters developed by Coach Anthony “Chic” D’Angelo. They went undefeated for an entire season. The team, comprised of Larry Cohen, John Pollard, Dominick Sottile and Roland “Mickey” Davis won the Bethlehem Relay, Bridgeton Relays, Lower Bucks Relay [breaking the record], and the PIAA District 1 Relay.
The quartet of incredible athletes donned in grey uniforms with red lettering had a great leader to chart their course.
"Bristol’s crack relay teams and individuals came feared at the Bethlehem Relays held at Liberty High School. The Bristol trackmen went home with 12 gold medals and four large trophies for winning. Coach D’Angelo's relay team was at its best as it ran the event one second faster than it did to win the Bridgeton relays. Besides individual gold medals, the team was awarded the Sawyer Trophy. The 440-relay team was composed of Cohen, Sidney Taylor, Dominick Sottile and Davis. They were also awarded gold medals and the team Pop Kniery Trophy.
Davis was the only runner to receive three gold medals.
In ’53, Davis, Sottile, Pollard and Sid pulled the stunt “Hound Dog” [a great tracker, a working dog].”
May 4, 1953 in ‘The Bristol Daily Courier’
AF Staff Sgt. John Patrick Pollard, BHS ’53 was the sixth of fourteen children born to Junius Allen and Anna Mary Pollard. He still resides in Bristol Township. He was a member of the “last class of Township students to graduate from Bristol High. We were treated differently. We were township kids.”
The [Joseph E.] Delhaas High School opened in 1953. The 12th and final commencement for the Class of 1965, comprising of 343 seniors, terminated two graduating locations in the township.
Delhaas merged with Woodrow Wilson HS.
John married Lila Mae [Fredrick] July 20th 1955 and they had nine children, four sons and 5 daughters who have blessed them with 35 grandchildren and 37 great-grandchildren. Their daughter, cross country athlete Darlene Lila is Snyder-Girotti teacher, LaToya Sahm, M.ED’s mother. LaToya’s father Floyd and his twin brother Lloyd Wood were impressive athletes in the BHS class of ’81. “I feel blessed to have my grandparents.”
LaToya was excited to have her Pop-Pop recognized for his athletic prowess.
The 24’ long jumper on the all male track & field team was also the BHS school photographer who still remembers using the school’s Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic press camera. Athletics were not John’s only forte.
“I was the best ‘Lit’ student, but I was ‘THE’ history guy in my class.” He recalls Mrs. Margaret Gontar as his teacher who had also taught his siblings. One of Marty Green’s daughters, Connie Green was his classmate.
John was assigned to 12A. “Academic, industrial boys could wear jeans; we wore pants.”
At the graduation ceremonies in the Grand Theater, Principal David L. Hertzler informed them that 1953 was the first time there were State Champions graduating in the class.
The District 1 competitions were held in Franklin Field and States were hosted at State College.
Bristol Borough memories included “catching the bus to go to the Bristol Theatre for Saturday matinees”. No television yet, so he listened to baseball games on the radio.
The nickname, “Whiz Kids” was given to the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies in Major League Baseball when they won the National League pennant. John recalls names of the key players, like “Robin Roberts, Willie Jones on third base, and Granville Wilbur “Granny” Hamner”.
They “hung out at a little restaurant next to the Grand Theatre with the pin-ball machine.”
JR Field’s lemon ice cream was a favorite dessert. He and his friends ice skated on the canal and fished for chain pickerels, aggressive fighters once hooked, making them an exciting catch.
John Pollard was the very accomplished second leg of that dominating 880 State Champion relay team in 1953. “Gotta have the fast guy in second,” was the rule from Coach Chic.
The late Larry Cohen, BHS ’54 was the relay’s leadoff runner. He was also the 100 yard State Champ, and had won the Lower Bucks 100 yard and 200 yard dashes, breaking the record in the 100 with a time of 9.92 which still stands today.
Third leg, basketball/ football/ baseball athlete and Class VP, Army Pvt. Dominick John “Sonny” Sottile, BHS ’54 passed the baton to the anchor, the late Lt. Roland M. “Mickey” Davis, track star athlete and an outstanding student who was killed when the MG sports car in which he was riding went out of a control on a curve, 18 miles from Minot, N.D.
He was only 24.
Sonny’s big brother, James Marvin Sottile, Sr., BHS ’49, an inaugural member of BHS class of 1988 Hall of Fame, proudly shared, “He was an aggressive individual and always gave 100%!”
Sonny Sottile was named “Most Athletic” in the BHS yearbook. He remembers the foursome being very close friends. His Pop called them the “League of Nations”.
“We ran against the best teams from Yeadon, Radnor and Coatesville. No starting blocks. We just made a hole in the dirt and practiced. Our spikes were like a nail running through the bottom of the shoe.”
Their track records stand. The athletes are proud of, but remain humble about their accomplishments. Life goes on.
About two decades ago, John’s late wife started hosting family dinners at their home every Sunday. He continues her tradition.
“He cooks anything. He’s the best!” added his granddaughter, LaToya.
No FAST food for this athlete and his family. Good “homemade Southern” cooking always.
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